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Lot # 1280 (of 1727)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Remarkable 1931 Babe Ruth Signed Letter with Beer Content

Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $9,988

In this extraordinary typed-signed letter, written by Babe Ruth to his good friend Jimmie Donohue in 1931, Ruth provides a brief, yet insightful, glimpse into the less-than-glamorous life of America's top sports idol. At the time of this letter, Ruth was "marooned" in a Cleveland hotel with the rest of his teammates after their game against the Indians had been rained out. The fact that Prohibition had yet to be repealed only added to Ruth's dreary mood. To relieve the boredom, Ruth thought it would be fun to type a letter to Donohue, not only to prove to his friend that he could type, but also to make explicit what was first and foremost on his mind: beer and cold cuts. In full:

Dear Jimmie, A few lines to let know that Claire and I are fine and hoping you and your family are the same. It is raining like hell out and the game is called off It looks like no game today and lots of doubles headers [sic] the next trip when it will be hot as hell. I am writing this myself and it looks veryn [sic] good to me. How is every thi[n]g in Garfield. Beer is very hard to get out here and so is every thing else. will be over to see you when we get home and have some good old beer and cold cuts on those hot nights. Am writing this letter to show you that Ican [sic] use a typewriter and am very good at it. This is all for now so will see you real soon so. Sincerely, Babe and Claire [signed].

Jimmie Donohue was a prominent New Jersey restauranteur who was a longtime friend and confidant of Ruth. Obviously, Ruth's informal closing of "Babe and Claire " (Ruth took the liberty of signing his wife's name as well) clearly evinces the close relationship he and Donohue shared. Ruth's signature has been scripted in black fountain pen and grades "9." While the nature of this letter is certainly contradictory to Ruth's reputation as a "Hell Raiser," it does confirm that by 1931 he had more or less settled down into a more conventional domestic relationship with his second wife, Claire. Ruth was thirty-six years old at the time of this writing and his words here convey the thoughts and feelings of an athlete who realizes that his best days are now behind him. It also poignantly illustrates the fact that even an athlete of Ruth's stature was not immune to the ennui of a long road trip. Even though his mind was on other things off the field at this stage of his career, it was still all business for Ruth at the ballpark. The fabled "Sultan of Swat" led the league in home runs for the twelfth and final time of his career in 1931, finishing the season with a .373 average. 46 home runs, and 163 RBI. Despite his dreary mood here, Ruth enjoyed an outstanding two-game series against the Indians. On May 19th, the day before he wrote this letter, Ruth banged out two hits in the Yankees 8-6 win. On May 21st, Ruth contributed a home run, a triple, and a double to the team's 7-6 victory, which also closed out the nine-game road trip. Of course, the joy related to that offensive output was probably tempered by Ruth's thoughts of looming double headers, summer heat, and the dearth of speakeasies in the town known as Cleveland.

Babe Ruth letters are extremely rare, especially those dating from his active playing career. In addition to its exceptional content, the offered letter, written on The Hollenden hotel stationery, is also noteworthy for its impeccable provenance. This letter is one of a number of Babe Ruth signed pieces that were sold directly by the Donohue family at public auction a few years ago, and one of three such items appearing here in this auction (the others, offered as separate lots, are a signed bat and photo). The letter (6 x 9 inches) displays two horizontal mailing folds, as well as a few minor surface wrinkles, and is in Excellent condition overall. Ideally, it is accompanied by its original mailing envelope (also The Hollenden stationery), that is postmarked "May 20, 1931" (Vg). Both pieces have been beautifully matted and framed together to total dimensions of 11 x 19 inches. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $9,988


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